You probably didn’t get into freelance development to become a marketer.
You got into freelancing so you could work when you want, make more money, and control your life.
But, if you haven’t realized it yet, building a career as a freelancer requires you to embrace more than just writing code.
Part of developing your career is branding.
You recognize something magical about big brands like Apple, Mcdonald's, or Shell.
You see a logo and know instantly what it stands for and what it delivers.
These international companies have huge marketing budgets, so they can spend large amounts of money on branding.
You probably also recognize the personal brands of well-known celebrities who are associated with certain types of movies or who promote popular products.
Yet you feel that pinning down your personal brand is hard. It is!
But don’t worry. I’m going to walk you through a simple process for building a personal brand.
By the time you're done reading this article, you’ll know how to build your brand.
Why Building a Personal Brand is Important
As I mentioned in How to Generate Leads as a Freelancer, it can be tough to stand out from the crowd. So you need to showcase your business and make connections with potential clients.
One way to do this is to harness the power and potential of a personal brand.
Many freelancers think branding is hard, complicated, time-consuming, or unpleasant.
It can be, but only if you approach it the wrong way.
Your personal brand is very simple - it’s you.
It’s the picture of you, the essence of how you work, and how you want people to talk about you when they tell others about your work.
- Daniel is a database engineer who does great work in both SQL and PHP.
- Erin is a full-stack web developer who helps small companies create websites ready for Web3.
- Juan teaches people how to build a career as a programmer.
All three of these are examples of a personal brand that connects what they do and what they want others to think about when they think of their brands.
It all starts here by identifying what you do and how you want other people to talk about and think about you and your work. When you know this, everything else becomes easy.
How to Start Building Your Personal Brand
You begin by committing to one essential thing: staying true to yourself.
Your brand can’t be some digital costume you wear to get clients. They’ll see through that in a heartbeat.
It needs to come from who you are.
So, ask yourself three questions:
1. Who am I?
Start by defining yourself as a freelancer with 3 - 4 key words or phrases that you want to define your work, such as:
- Easy to work with
How do you want people to describe what it means to work with you?
2. What do I do?
Then, get specific about what you do (and what you don’t do). For example,
- I design mobile-responsive websites using Java and PHP.
- I write secure apps based on Web3 technology.
- I close security gaps in websites and recover business sites that have been hijacked with ransomware.
These statements don’t say, “I design websites” or “I write apps.” That’s too generic.
Be specific about what you do.
Getting clear about what you do means you’ll attract the right type of clients.
3. What makes me unique?
Finally, it’s easy to chase a persona or identity you’ve seen used successfully by someone else. But don’t do something because you’ve seen it be successful for someone else.
Stay true to who you are (refer to your Who Am I? list):
- Do you love to change your hair color? Embrace that.
- Do you have a defining personality trait that makes you different or special? Promote it.
- Do you have a particular skill or spread of skills that means you can offer something unique? Don’t hide it – use it as a way to differentiate yourself.
For more tips on How to Promote Your Services (and yourself) as a Freelancer, read this.
Define Your Look
This is the hard part, especially for those of us who are not natural designers.
Surprisingly, you want to know the hardest part about defining your look?
Keeping it simple.
The mistake most people make in developing the visuals for a brand is that they develop things that are far too complicated and detailed.
When you work on defining the “look” for your business, follow three principles:
- Keep everything related to your brand within 2-3 colors.
- Design a simple and timeless logo.
- Invest in good photos.
Don’t chase trends, “in colors,” or new and exciting things. Find and embrace something that will look good all the time.
The colors you use, the logo on your emails and letterhead, and the images you use for social media will define your brand and will communicate a lot of subtle things about how it is to work with you.
If it’s simple, clear, and easy, YOU will be associated with these things.
There are a lot of books, blogs, and websites that teach you what colors to choose and how to build a visual brand.
But, for most freelancers, the best piece of advice is simple:
Get help from an expert.
I understand the impulse to save money by trying to do it yourself.
But unless you have some design skills (or want to spend a lot of time learning), you lose far more than you win by trying to do it yourself.
It takes more time, you’ll make more mistakes, and the results won’t be nearly as good as they could be.
Someone who knows the principles of design will make you look better than you will.
Remember the importance of first impressions!
Old, fuzzy, outdated photos of yourself are unprofessional and could stop new clients from working with you.
And, just because your friend claims to design logos doesn’t mean they are good at it.
Instead, take the plunge and invest in a professional photographer, or hop onto 99designs and have someone develop a logo for you.
Get expert advice to figure out how your website should flow.
Find someone who specializes in web design to help you improve the look and feel of your site.
Even though it may cost more upfront, these investments will reward you with a brand that attracts clients and genuinely represents you.
Tell Your Story
Every freelancer needs to be able to talk about their business fluently and comfortably.
But you’d be surprised how hard it is for many freelancers to answer the question, What do you do?
The key is to prepare ahead of time.
Write out (literally) what you’ll say to people and how you’ll describe your freelancing career before they ask the question.
Your answers will come out clearer, they’ll sound polished, and you’ll feel better delivering them when you aren’t making it up on the spot.
There are four “versions” of your story that you’ll need to develop.
1. The tagline/slogan.
- Bringing websites into the web3 era.
- Web development made simple.
- Integrating your website into everything you do.
A good tagline is clear, short, and delivers the essential value of what you do in one simple statement.
Notice what a tagline does not have: details, explanations, or descriptions. Instead, it focuses on the benefits you deliver.
You use a tagline in a website header, on a business card, or to book-end a promotional video in places where you don’t have time or space to get detailed.
2. The elevator pitch
This expands on the tagline by giving just a bit more information and focusing on the service you provide (instead of simply the benefit).
- I help small businesses integrate web3 technology into websites before their competitors.
- As a full-stack developer, I manage and coordinate website design and updates for businesses.
- I help businesses find ways to use their websites to increase sales and cut costs, improving business revenue.
The elevator pitch is great for introductions and introducing yourself at a conference. It gives someone just a bit of detail, but not enough to feel overwhelmed or like you are trying to make a sale with them.
3. A short bio
This is a few sentences or short paragraphs about how you started doing what you do and why you have customers today.
I graduated in 2015 from ______ University with a degree in computer engineering. After several years of honing my skills in a corporate setting, I decided to take what I’d learned and help small businesses achieve the same success.
In 2019, I launched my own freelance career, and by 2020, it grew into a full-time career.
Today, I’ve worked with clients in 3 countries, successfully completing more than 45 different website projects covering everything from website redesigns to integrating new functionality into existing websites.
Everything in this description communicates information relevant to someone who is considering hiring you by answering questions about experience, success, and expertise.
If you are giving a presentation at a local chamber of commerce event or a breakout session at a regional conference, a short bio is a great thing to provide to attendees. It’s also great to have ready-to-go for initial client meetings or sales calls because you can give them important, relevant information to establish your credibility.
4. A long bio
The difference between a short and long bio is more than length.
In the longer bio, you can add a bit more personality (though you should keep this simple) and more details about your business.
In the example below, you’ll notice where I added some additional detail.
I graduated in 2015 from ______ University with a degree in computer engineering. This degree focused on programming, giving me expertise in SQL, PHP, Python, and Java.
After several years of honing my skills in a corporate setting leading increasingly large teams at _____ and ______, I decided to take what I’d learned and help small businesses achieve the same success.
In 2019, I launched my own freelance career, and by 2020, it grew into a full-time career. Today, I’ve worked with clients in 3 countries, successfully completing more than 45 different website projects covering everything from website redesigns to integrating new functionality into existing websites.
Over the course of this time, my projects have become increasingly complex. Not only have I gained experience in several additional languages and skills, but I’ve also become a Six Sigma Green Belt.
The long bio is great for the “about” page on your website.
By planning ahead (and literally writing out) these four versions of your story, you’ll feel more confident selling your brand to clients and answering any questions they may have about your business.
Following the steps I’ve laid out so far will help you hone and develop your unique brand to represent your freelance business. But successful marketing doesn’t stop with that.
Share Your Work
Building your brand is only good if people see it. Once you’ve established your brand identity, it’s time to share it with the world.
As I emphasize in How to Get Better at Sales, selling and marketing your business requires a long-term mindset. You must actively pursue new connections and opportunities.
When you complete a new project, share it with current and potential clients.
Seek and share client testimonials.
Get active on social media by answering questions, offering your insight on important questions in your field, and building a following.
Interact with people – everywhere.
This could be on social media, tweeting, replying, and re-tweeting your brand and business.
But this could also involve building a blog or speaking at conferences. You could start a podcast or become active at your local Chamber.
And don’t forget to focus on giving back to people in your community.
It’s easy to turn every interaction into a transaction, measuring it by whether or not you’ve gained followers, increased subscribers, or signed a new client.
But, one of the most important elements to developing a real, vibrant, and believable personal brand is to give back to people.
So, be generous with your time, expertise, and knowledge because people will notice.
Examples of developers with a great personal brands
Simon is a great example of a developer who's cultivated his personal brand. Just by looking at his Twitter profile we can easily understand all about his brand.
He makes it very clear from the go what you would expect from him on the platform, what is he working on, his YouTube channel, and his passion to talk about SaaS, tech, and business.
His growth has been exponential everywhere he goes – Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
If you want get inspiration, definitely check him out.
James Q. Quick
Once again, an example of delivering a message directly on his Twitter profile, we have James. Just with a quick look we can tell he is all about content creation for developers, he does public speaking, online teaching, and he runs a podcast.
Her brand is very clear and distinctive when you look at her social media profiles.
You can build an honest, vibrant, and engaging personal brand, even if marketing isn’t your particular strength.
The keys are simple:
- Define who you are and what makes your business unique
- Invest in a professional to help to design your brand.
- Prepare (in advance) to tell your story.
- Share your personal brand and your work through genuine connections with people.
Follow my advice, and you’ll soon reap the benefits of a successful marketing brand that attracts clients and allows you to pursue the financial and flexible rewards of freelancing.
Before you go, if you want to learn more about web development, how to code, freelancing and making money online as a developer, check out my free newsletter.
Thanks for reading!